Monday, January 15, 2007

The Mirror Principle

Working class hero, middle class intellectual, upper class twit -- those kind of classifications are a peculiarly British pre-occupation. During 13 tough years in Japan I was subject to a much simpler form of discrimination: foreigner, one who doesn’t belong here. I was supposed to carry at all times an “alien registration card.” Even after marrying my Japanese wife, I still had to go once a year to stand in a long line of fellow aliens, to be treated like scum by Japanese immigration officials.

Over the past couple of years one of the things that has become increasingly clear to me is what I have referred to in these blogs as “the mirror principle.”

The spark for this insight came from noticing people’s response to a recent Dharma-heir of Gudo Nishijima’s called James Cohen -- a New York lawyer called Cohen... the mind already begins to put him in a certain class, to reach for the filing cabinet and pull out a stereotype marked “New York Jewish lawyer.”

What I noticed in myself was a hatred of his insincerity, his pushing himself forward as a Zen master when he evidently is nothing of the kind. Where does this hatred arise, for a person who I have never even met? It comes from my own fear. What is my deepest fear? That I am not the real deal, not the genuine article. That not only am I fraud who knows he is a fraud but also that, in all kinds of ways, I am a fraud who does not know he is a fraud -- just like Cohen.

Why did Adolf Hitler manifest such overt hatred for Jews? The answer was provided, to my satisfaction anyway, by a reader of this blog who pointed me to the work of Alice Miller. According to Ms Miller, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that Adolf’s father was the illegitimate son of a Jewish merchant, that Adolf’s mother was the Jewish merchant’s housemaid. Thus, the mirror principle may have been working again: what Hitler feared within himself -- his being a dirty Jew -- he saw reflected outside himself, and hated it.

What did Master Dogen fear in himself? He tells us in Shobogenzo that what he feared most was losing the will to the truth. And for whom does Master Dogen reserve his most venemous criticism? For monks who pervert the Buddha’s true teaching in order to get their own fame and profit -- he calls those monks dogs who want to eat and drink the shit and piss of lay people.

What does Gudo Nishijima fear might be wrong in himself? I think he fears his own intellectual tendency, his own idealistic tendency, his own bookish tendency, his own tendency to think too much. Herein lies the cause of his big mistake.

When I began to understand, from 1994 onwards, the key role that thinking plays in Zazen, and began to advocate thinking in Zazen, Gudo reacted to me as if I were his enemy, and the enemy of Buddhism.

Shortly, however, I think that Gudo will recognize his mistake, and declare so publicly. Instead of opposing, he will begin to support my mission to clarify the fundamental meaning in Zazen of feeling, thinking, and action. That will be a big change, with which I will have to cope. There is always something in us, isn’t there?, that doesn’t like change.


Blogger JundoCohen said...

Well, you already have the skinhead.

Peace, Jundo

Monday, January 15, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

The insinuation is that I am racist. That is fighting talk. But at the end you write "Peace."

In the words of one Jew who I do revere, a certain R. Zimmerman: "I don't believe you. You are a liar."

In Bob Dylan's lyrics, I hear the truth. He isn't a fraud. You, Cohen, are a fraud.

It has got nothing to do with race. As Master Dogen said: BANBETSU SEN SA TO IU TO IEDOMO SHIKAN NI SANZEN BENDO SUBESHI. Although there are ten thousand differences and a thousand distinctions, we should just solely devote ourselves to Zen practice in pursuit of the truth.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007  
Blogger siapac said...

mixing alchohol and zazen can have disasterous results. mike cross serves as a great teacher of what not to do with a precious human life. treating it like a few pints of warm beer. pissing it away.

jundo cohen can't help but poke the monkey with a stick. mike cross is the better teacher i'm afraid.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Dear Michael,

I will now return to quiet and silence, but I ask you to have the courage to post this on you Blog, for the record.

You wrote a message to me, just days ago, which contained the salutation ...

>I would like to say to you simply: Fuck off, jewboy.

>I feel extreme anger to you, Cohen, because of the mirror principle. You represent everything that is unnatural, pretentious, insincere about the human condition, about my condition.

I truly hope you find peace, and that perspective by which all concept of "us" and "them" fades away. I am sorry that I represent all those evils to you.

Peace, Jewboy Jundo

Tuesday, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

I don't believe you. You are a liar.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Yes, your intuition was correct about the alcohol.
I think Master Dogen was a great teacher. Gudo Nishijima also has a very important quality of a great teacher, which is patience.
I don't see myself as much of a teacher -- more an explorer, a fighter, a problem solver.
I lack patience, but am stubborn. And that stubbornness led me to understand in Fukan-zazen-gi Master Dogen's clarity in regard to feeling, thinking, and action.
In a sense, my life-work is already done. I solved the problem I wished to solve.
Good teachers of the future, I hope, will benefit from my effort. Maybe you will be one.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

I would like to add to Jewboy Jundo:

According to Master Dogen's teaching, if you learn the backward step of turning light around, body and mind will spontaneously drop off and your original features will emerge.

This principle applies without distinction between different cultures. But the stronger the culture is, the greater the challenge. And I think Jewish conditioning tends to be relatively strong.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Gregor said...

pretty repulsive

Friday, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Don't be so hard on yourself, Gregor.

Master Dogen said: ZEN AKU OMAWAZU Don't think good, bad.

Saturday, September 15, 2007  
Blogger daniel said...

Honesty can be pretty raw and even repulsive. But mixing a your attitude to a single Jewish Zen teacher with generalizations about cultural conditioning with shadows of some deep-seated prejudice makes a truly unpalatable mix. Whatever the truth may be, may it become clear and may all concerned heal!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Hi Daniel.

Prompted by your comment to read back over what I wrote three years ago, one thing that is clear to me is that I was struggling to spring free from denial, but, as is clearly shown by the last paragraph in the post, I was still sadly failing in that task.

I think the order implicit in your closing wish is invariably the right order -- first the truth becomes clear, and then true healing can take place.

I see that order also implicit in Saundarananda 17.33...

By the way, since this post was written I have made my apologies to Jundo, and he to me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010  
Blogger daniel said...

Thank you for your follow up. I am glad that some thing have been resolved. It is disheartening sometimes to see so much rancour among practitioners, especially ones from the same lineage. So much misplaced energy and emotion. Of course it is only disheartening when I long to find the sages out there and out here on the web is probably not the best place to find them, even if this search did have some meaning.

It's interesting that you link to these words from Ashvagosha about healing. I've started reading a great little book called Healing Buddha by Raoul Birnbaum you may be interested in.

Friday, March 26, 2010  

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